Tehran Times - 8/4/2004
Iranian Three-Story Underground City Served As Haven
TEHRAN (CHN) -- Archaeologists believe that a three-story underground city, recently unearthed in central Iran, used to function as a collective shelter for its residents in wake of relentless invasions.
The city, lying beneath the small town of Nushabad near Kashan, features labyrinth-like architectural structures, starting 2.5 meters under the surface and running 18 meters deep. Nushabad residents had been reporting about underground corridors and chambers when they were digging wells in their yards for sewage, since most Iranian cities lack a sewage network.
Working on the tip-off, archaeologists started digging the area, but to their chagrin, they failed to find any clue, until during the second week of excavation, an 18-year-old digger by the name of Ali Reza Khabbazi did finally discovered something that turned out to be an underground city, whose three stories are interconnected by several flights of stairs.
“Over one month, we succeeded in finding the city which has about 43 steps between each of its stories,” said Zahra Sarokhani, head of the research team, made up of archaeologists, architects and history and geography experts.
The team is now working on two workshops on both ends of the 170-hectare town of Nushabad. They have already concluded the corridors are interconnected through the maze-like city, but they still wonder if the whole complex has three stories.
Referring to historical textbooks and documents, Sarokhani proposed the theory that the newly-unearthed city served as a collective shelter since Kashan, in Isfahan Province, has been at a major trade crossroads, thus very appealing to bandits and other invaders including Seljuks and Mongols. She added archeologists have also discovered some mill stones, indicating the inhabitants used to live in the sanctuary for several days or possibly weeks.
“The city is built according to a systematically laid-out plan and it is likely all the residents had a hand in building it, since it seems a gargantuan task to me,” said Ehsan Zera’at, architecture scholar. Archaeologists have so far dug out several earthenware vessels and two fat-burning lanterns. The potteries date from the Sassanid dynasty (226-651) to Safavid era (1501-1722), said Sadat, a graduate archaeology student, adding, “The city has been built during the Sassanid era and has been dwelled and used till the Safavid period, at most.”
Next year the research team intends to ask sociologists and anthropologists for help to determine the lifestyle of the inhabitants. Kashan is an oasis city lying in a desert at the eastern foot of the Central Iranian Range. Kashan was earlier an important station on an important caravan route between Kerman and Isfahan. Kashan has several ancient monuments. Most famous are the mausoleum of Shah Abbas 1, the 12th century Friday Mosque and the Safavid royal buildings southwest of the city center.